Retailers in Northern Ireland have echoed concerns in England about the feasibility of manual deposit return schemes (DRSs) for bottles.
Trade body Retail NI said the country’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs should ensure that the UK does not adopt a manually administered scheme.
It does not object to the use of reverse vending machines, but opposes the idea in the Government’s consultation on a DRS that small convenience stores would be required to take back containers manually because it would be uneconomic for them all to have the machines.
The Association of Convenience Stores has mounted similar arguments that manual systems would be unworkable.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “We welcome the Government’s acknowledgement that reverse vending machines may not be economically or practically viable for small stores, but requiring those stores to take part in a manual return system would be extremely problematic.
“Issues our members have identified include a lack of space to store returned containers, hygiene problems from handling dirty containers, colleagues having to deal with potentially hundreds of returned containers every day, and the queues and customer disruption this could cause.”
He called for a “fully funded and strategically located network” of reverse vending machines.
Retail NI also backed the idea of limiting the scheme to containers of 750ml or less in size – one of the options in the consultation. The other is for no size limit.
Roberts said: “Larger containers are typically consumed at home and then recycled through the existing kerbside collection network. We do not believe that there is a need to include them within the scope of a DRS.”
This stance puts the retailers at odds with campaign group Greenpeace, which has presented environment secretary Michael Gove with a giant plastic bottle to promote the idea of taking unlimited sizes.